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International Relations as a vehicle for achieving the vision of Tshwane becoming the African Capital City of Excellence by 2055

 By Dr Matlotleng Matlou*

18 March 2014

On 05 December 2000, various municipalities outside the Greater Pretoria area were amalgamated to form the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. Since then there has been no agreement between different stakeholders on the name of the city. On 26 May 2005 the South African Geographical Names Council, the legally responsible institution which advises government on changing of existing geographical names and new ones, accepted the recommendations of the Tshwane Metro Council. These were then forwarded to the minister of Arts and Culture in 2005. However,  the name change was never properly undertaken, with the process stuck since then because of objections by various interest groups and persons mainly Afrikaners based on costs, long established brand and heritage. Against them are juxtaposed many Africans who associate Pretoria with a discriminatory and exclusionary past, also arguing that name changes take place globally irrespective of the long term brands. This impasse has created an identity crisis and confusion, which costs the city and its inhabitant vast opportunities of working for a united future and for marketing it internationally.

Tshwane has the vision to be “the African Capital City of Excellence” and states that it “has adapted to globalisation remarkably well and has all the elements of a smart city.” The City of Tshwane is the capital (political) of South Africa and third largest municipality globally in land area 6368km – 131km east west and 108km north south. Tshwane contributes about 27% and 10% of the GDP of Gauteng and South Africa respectively. Tshwane has a population of about three million, the majority being younger than 35 years; is the centre of government, local and national; is located in the fastest growing socioeconomic region in Africa; is a centre of research hosting four universities and seven science councils. The main economic sectors in Tshwane are community services, then finance and manufacturing. Metal products are the largest sub-sector within manufacturing then, machinery and household appliances, and transport equipment. All the major banks and financial services institutions have offices in Tshwane. However, Tshwane, like all South African cities also has huge challenges of inadequate infrastructure, high unemployment of 24% of which 32.6% are youth, a growing crime problem etc. Furthermore, having community services as its main economic sector is an unreliable base for being a global hub.

Thus by 2055 it endeavours to be a place which is liveable, resilient and inclusive, whose citizens enjoy a high quality of life, have access to social, economic and enhanced political freedoms and where citizens are partners in the development of the African Capital City of excellence. By 2020 Tshwane seeks to have consolidated the gains of democracy and tackled the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality; 2030 to have adequately managed sustainable urban growth and development; 2040 transited towards a sustainable urban form and economy; and 2055 attained better life for all and prosperity. The six outcomes to be achieved through realising its vision include creating a resilient and resource efficient City; growing economy that is inclusive, diversified and competitive; quality infrastructure development that supports liveable communities;  equitable environment that supports happiness, social cohesion, safety and healthy citizens;  African Capital City that promotes excellence and innovative governance solutions; and national capital with an activist citizenry that is engaging, aware of their rights and presents themselves as partners in tackling societal challenges. The question is, how will the vision and these outcomes be achieved? What are the most promising socioeconomic sectors for Tshwane to pursue and how will they be prioritised? How will growth barriers on the value chain significantly be reduced or eliminated? What financial resources, skills, infrastructure and business friendly environment will be needed to meet the objectives of the visions; where will these inputs come from and how can they be procured cost-effectively? Any strategies developed to deal with the above and other development challenges will be largely home grown, but must be complemented by international cooperation which is what will be concentrated upon now.

Today 2.6 billion people in the emerging markets live in cities and by 2030 this number will be 3.9 billion, presently huge opportunities and challenges for all social partners – civil society, governments, organised labour and business. Meanwhile developed world cities will over the next 20 years only grow by 100m people. In 2010 these cities contributed over 60% of global GDP growth, projected at 67% in 2015. They will account for 30% global private consumption by 2015 and this is projected to grow at 11% annually. Infrastructure investment in them is forecast at 30-40 trillion cumulatively over 20 years. There are 717 emerging market cities with populations of over 0.5m, with 371 more expected by 2030 and Africa urbanising rate of 3.61% which is the highest globally; whilst in the developed world they are only 240 today and will not grow much faster in the future. Thus the opportunities for growth especially in emerging markets require governments to create effective and efficient policy environments and infrastructure; business to be savvy to consumer needs and provide appropriately for them; and civil society that jealously guards the interests of the majority especially the disadvantaged, monitor activities of government and business both local and international in this world of uneven opportunities and endowments, diminishing resources, and vast and growing inequalities.
The AT Kearney 2012 Global Cities Index is based on how the following indicators; business activities (30%); human capital (30%); information exchange (15%); cultural experience (15%) and political engagement (10%) intertwine to determine a city’s global influence and create interrelationships with other cities in linking into the global economy. The first 49 cities are mainly in the Global North; followed by the rising East and a few Latin American go-getters. Cairo, representing Africa, debuts at surveys starting in 2008, when they were at positions 38 and 50 respectively. Nairobi was not surveyed in 2008 and has stayed at 56 in 2010 and 2012; whilst Nigeria started at 53 in 2008 and is now 59 in 2012. So either African cities are generally regressing or not moving as fast as other cities globally. Tshwane does not appear on the first 66 cities on the index requiring a lot of work to make an appearance amongst the world’s vibrant, innovative and highly competitive roleplayers.
Furthermore, the global cities index also measures performance of emerging cities focusing on some strengths like gross domestic product; middle class growth; infrastructure and ease of doing improvement, as well as vulnerabilities like healthcare deterioration; lack of sufficiently skilled employees and high operational costs, especially wages and unstable industrial relations corruption increase; pollution increase and instability increase. Tshwane will need to be rated so that it builds on the positive foundation of relative strength in the high scoring indicators, and seek to eliminate weaker ones.

Tshwane is fortunate in that after South Africa re-joined the international community in 1994 its diplomatic footprint has grown both in terms of its representatives abroad and those accredited to the country. There was also tremendous international goodwill for the country, which enhanced its soft power status globally and it was sought after as a peace maker and keeper in Africa, international bridge with the Global South and between the South and North. Presently Tshwane has the second largest diplomatic representation globally after Washington DC. It has the indisputable charisma of a regional hub attracting both temporary and permanent international residents. It is close to Johannesburg which is an international hub for southern Africa and virtually a mid-point between Asia and Latin America.

It is important to note that merely having a large diplomatic representation may be a necessary but insufficient lever for global influence. National power, economic and financial muscle, history and cultural heritage are also important. So there are many more much more influential global cities with less diplomatic representation than Tshwane. They take advantage of their other attributes and make better use of their international relations than Tshwane, which perceives high diplomatic representation as an end or automatic dispenser of influence, a marketing or bragging rights phenomenon, without a clear strategy of how the opportunities presented can be harnessed and increased. Thousands of foreign government, business and other delegations visit Tshwane annually, yet their length of stay and spending is limited because they are not encouraged to stay longer and spend more. They often end up spending more time in other parts of South Africa; perceiving Tshwane as a transit point for meetings only. The Tshwane tourism authorities need to re-double their efforts and work with the diplomatic representatives and hosts of these visitors in developing appropriate packages if they require greater returns from their presence.

Diplomats, because of the short stints that they serve, often leave foreign postings just when they are becoming familiar with a place and developing stronger roots; meaning they socialise more within expatriate circles. However, if greater efforts are undertaken by their host city the process of integration can be speedier; they enjoy the country more; sink deeper roots and actually become salespersons for the host city and country even after they have departed. Recognising that many diplomats do not sometimes speak the national languages of their duty stations more facilities must be made available in Tshwane to assist them to learn these, especially utilising electronic means.

Tshwane has signed twinning agreements with numerous cities across the world covering various areas of cooperation. This provides a window to learn from its counterparts on how they have dealt with various development challenges and harnessed opportunities; and resource mobilisation channel. However, this is another under-utilised tool.  Furthermore, Tshwane is not taking sufficient advantage of chapter 3 of the constitution on cooperative governance to benefit from the national and provincial governments international relations infrastructure, networks and skills. It should be harnessing these partnerships to empower its officials and citizens to acquire necessary material resources and skills, international exposure, inclusion on relevant delegations and participating in appropriate meetings and events and developing relations with the broader international community in Tshwane and South Africa generally. Information technology should also be better utilised for some of the above objectives, especially with the cost cutting initiatives introduced by national government.
In 2009, the erstwhile Department of Foreign Affairs became the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, in order to be more inclusive in our engagements with the international community and less state-centric. However, a lot more needs to be done to enhance participation of the other social partners in international relations, expand opportunities for them and bring greater benefits to the nation. The level of people to people relations is still weak and many South Africans are narrowly focussed on domestic issues. In spite of the large diplomatic presence in Tshwane this community has limited interaction with ordinary people. Celebration of national days of other countries mainly occur in hotels or diplomatic facilities with the invitees mainly being government officials, fellow diplomatic and local elites. Tshwane should lobby for these events and similar one should take place in townships and other less used facilities to enhance interaction with local people, having ensured that safety and other issues are adequately catered for. This will be a means of spreading resources across the city, strengthening capacity and institutions and developing cultural bridges between the people of Tshwane and the international community. SOWETO can teach Tshwane a lot in this area.

South Africa re-joined the international community in the mid-1990s when the majority of global and regional international organisations had long established their headquarters.  However, with the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity into the African Union in 2002 a number of regional organisations were created and Tshwane has competed with Johannesburg in hosting some of them. The NEPAD Planning Agency and Pan-African Parliament are in Midrand. Furthermore, most consulates and some specialised UN agencies are in Johannesburg. Cooperation between the two cities on how they can be better hosts will be to the advantage of all. Much as Tshwane should and will be the main beneficiary of being host city for diplomats, South Africa as a whole because of its size and different offerings will also benefit. This calls for maximum cooperation between various stakeholders and social partners. On the other hand though they are not accredited diplomats many non-government international organisations and multinational businesses are setting their regional headquarters in South Africa, mainly in Johannesburg. Tshwane needs to sharpen its wits in attracting these organisations and staff, who will enhance the global characteristics of the city. Being a higher education and research hub attracts international academics, institutions and students to partner and study in Tshwane which further integrates the city into regional and global networks. In turn Tshwane citizens – government officials and others embark on various missions abroad and this provides opportunities for marketing the city and attracting various resources.
Tshwane has inadequate infrastructure for hosting bigger international meetings, conventions and events and providing incentives, known by the name MICE. It will need to upgrade its facilities and the planned international convention centre is a step in the right direction. In addition various other infrastructure especially public transport, support services and institutions will need to be created to enhance the attractiveness of Tshwane. Safety and security is also a major concern, particularly with the spate of crime attacks that at the beginning of the decade targeted diplomats and their property as a major vulnerable group. Matters have improved, but even more must be done since diplomats report back to their capitals and often these lead to travel and other negative advisories, in some cases even evacuation of officials. With instantaneous communication today, news travels across the world in real time and the negative one reinforces perceptions and acts as a deterrent for investment, visitors and reduces the attractiveness of a place. Of course the collar is true and no efforts should be spared to market the various positives that Tshwane and South Africa offer.

In 2009, about 20 international organizations spent around US$100 million in Jakarta and employed approximately 7,000 staff members, including 4,000 Indonesians. Nairobi, has numerous international organisations and more than 3,000 staff spending approximately $350 million annually in the local economy; New York, 35,000 staff, spending $2.5 billion; Geneva, 27,000 staff spending $2.9 billion and Vienna, 4,800 staff injecting $1.7 billion into the economy. Do we know what the information for Tshwane is and where can greater value be generated? Furthermore, proper and regular research needs to be undertaken on the needs of diplomats and how these can be met, especially by the business community and of course government where it is responsible. Change is today a constant phenomenon and the globe is becoming more complex. Thus Tshwane must utilise its international relations to position itself properly to meet the objectives of its vision, constantly reviewing this to adjust to the environment, being innovative, creating the necessary institutions and networks, acquiring the relevant skills and knowledge whilst planning ahead to remain globally competitive. This will require public private partnerships with local and international social partners and Tshwane must be a facilitator of the process to ensure success.

*Director Excelsior Afrika Consulting, Tshwane and Fellow, Centre for Africa Studies, University of Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.




February/March 2020








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